Location: 3115 Pico Blvd Santa Monica, CA 90405. (310) 829-4313
Date: February 25, 2016
Rating: Fun and educational!
This dinner is the second part of the annual White Burgundy Premox test series, hosted by Burg-meister Don Cornwell. This dinner covers 2008 Bienvenues-Bâtard, Criots-Bâtard,Bâtard-Montrachet, and Chevalier-Montrachet. 2008 White Burgundy Dinner series Part 1 can be found here. You can also read about previous year’s 2004 Red Burgundy dinner and 2006 White Burgundy tasting.
This particular dinner is at Valentino, which has been a mainstay of the LA fine dining scene for decades. I first started coming here in about 1995 and it was a mind blowing change from the usual trattoria and red-sauce style Italians. Valentino is much closer to Michelin 2 star restaurant in Italy, although not as modernist as some of those are in recent years. If food in Italy turns you on, check out my Eating Italy segment.
And with regard to the wines. In Burgundy, in 2008, up to the middle of June, when the moon was full on the 18th., the season had been cool, wet and miserable. The flowering was late and drawn out, promising a late and uneven harvest. The next six weeks happily saw a marked inprovement: plenty of sun, not too much rain – and what there was was sporadic and localised – though it was warm rather than hot. Temperatures rarely exceeded 30°C. Then the weather deteriorated. There was more rain and less sun right through to mid-September. A bleak summer indeed! Overall there was less precipitation on the Côte de Nuits than the Côte de Beaune, and less still in the Côte Chalonnaise. Chablis seems to have enjoyed the mildest weather of all. But inevitably, the incidence of mildew, oidium and botrytis became ever more serious as the weeks progressed. At various times from the beginning of May onwards, hail damaged the vineyards of Marsannay, Volnay and Meursault, Chassagne and parts of the southern Màconnais and northern Beaujolais.
At the last minute, however, more benign conditions returned and continued well into October. The harvest kicked off in the Beaujolais, as I have said, on September 15th. A week or more later the growers began to attack the Mâconnais and to some extent the Côte de Beaune. But many in the Côte d’Or held off until Monday 29th or even, in the Côte de Nuits, into October, and were able to profit from natural sugar levels of 13° and higher. It was the latest harvest for some years, requiring 110 or more, not 100, days from flowering to fruition.
Notice the awesome array of glasses in the background. Only about half of them are visible. Few restaurants can handle this sort of thing, as they need over 400 stems of the same type and a dedicated Sommelier with sufficient experience and skill. Ours tonight handled the whole wine service with extreme professionalism and personality.
Flight 0: Champagne
1998 Philipponnat Champagne Brut Clos des Goisses. Burghound 95. A brilliant, complex and broad-ranging nose offers up floral, citrus, yeast and extremely subtle red berry hints that complement perfectly the delicious, restrained and still quite youthful flavors that are very crisp and impressively precise with a medium effervescence on the deep, palate staining and lingering finish. The ’98 isn’t quite in the league of the superb ’96 but it’s not far off either and in my view, trumps the ’97 and ’99 as well.
Bread. I particularly liked the cheesy sticks.
Flight 1: Bienvenue / Criots
A word about tonight’s format. Every bottle was served blind, except we were aware of what flight it was and what was in the flight, just not of which wine was which. The reveal was held until the end of the entire evening so that we could vote on favorite wines without bias.
Personally, I’d prefer a reveal halfway through each flight for a number of reasons. True, this would compromise the voting a bit, but that’s not super important to me. I’d prefer to be able to taste the wines both not knowing which was which and knowing, so that I can continue to build up my subjective memory for each house style. I also find it very difficult to remember back across multiple flights for “best” comparisons. I took notes and marked my favorites of each flight and compared those.
agavin: Also, some general comments on this flight and the vintage. 2008 is really round and ripe. The wines are darker in the glass than average and have Botrytis and tropical notes. Some of them still have a lot of acid too.
From my cellar: 2008 Domaine Ramonet Bienvenues-Bâtard-Montrachet. Burghound 94. Soft if not invisible wood sets off strikingly pretty and solidly complex honeysuckle, white peach and spiced pear aromas that give way to intense, delicious and equally complex middle weight flavors that possess ample concentration and outstanding balance and length on the palate staining finish. This is really classy juice and quite stylish as well.
2008 Louis Carillon Bienvenues-Bâtard-Montrachet. Burghound 95. A discreet touch of pain grillé frames an equally expressive and every bit as pure nose of honeysuckle and lemon-lime aromas that combine seamlessly with rich, round and quite generous middle weight plus flavors that possess even better depth and stunning length. This is the complete package with a textured and palate staining finish as the level of dry extract here is most impressive. A stunner of a Bienvenues that should reward at least a decade of cellar time.
2008 Pierre-Yves Colin-Morey Bienvenues-Bâtard-Montrachet. VM 91-94. Peach, ginger, honey and medicinal herbs on the nose, plus a more exotic suggestion of lichee. Dry and penetrating on the palate, but with a distinctly tactile quality to the flavors of pineapple and flowers. Today this comes across as more austere than the Corton-Charlemagne, which is probably not a bad thing for a 2008.
From my cellar: 2008 Domaine Leflaive Bienvenues-Bâtard-Montrachet. Burghound 91-4. A subtle touch of pain grillé highlights citrus notes that, like the Pucelles, exhibit hints of honeysuckle and fennel nuances that complement perfectly the textured, rich and sweet medium plus weight flavors that are quite supple yet remain detailed, energetic and strikingly long on the explosive finish. This is a relatively powerful Bienvenues. In a word, terrific.
2008 Paul Pernot et ses Fils Bienvenues-Bâtard-Montrachet. Burghound 94. Here too the nose speaks of honeysuckle, citrus and lightly spiced pear aromas that serve as an elegant introduction to the pure, cool and understated middle weight flavors that possess outstanding depth of material and stunning length. This is a hugely long and quite serious yet impeccably well-balanced Bienvenues.
From my cellar: 2008 Domaine Fontaine-Gagnard Criots-Bâtard-Montrachet. Burghound 94. This possesses arguably the ripest nose of the range with its mildly exotic aromas of white flower, spiced pear, apricot and mango that combine with rich, full, powerful and overtly well-muscled flavors that offer impressive volume and power on the textured, indeed even opulent finish that is amply concentrated and seriously long. Overall, this is no more elegant than the La Romanée but there is another dimension of depth and length present. A terrific Criots.
2008 Henri Boillot Criots-Bâtard-Montrachet. Burghound 94. As one would reasonably expect given Criots’ natural tendency to high ripeness levels, the nose is notably riper than that of the Caillerets with ample amounts of highly complex yellow orchard fruit where a hint of exoticism comes into play. The equally ripe, rich, powerful and sappy full-bodied flavors display impressive size, weight and volume yet the finish remains focused and even reasonably well detailed with so much extract that there is the impression of chewiness. As is usually the case, this is not as refined as the rest of the grands crus but this is imposing.
2008 Hubert Lamy Criots-Bâtard-Montrachet. Burghound 92. The most complex nose in the range with an elegant array of citrus, floral and pear aromas that are less ripe than usual. The rich and precise medium weight flavors are delicious and pure with good if not great volume though there is fine balance and excellent length. This is really very stylish and sophisticated.
Dover Sole Involtini With Wild Mushroom Sauce. The mushrooms were really good, but sole is never that exciting and so this wasn’t a show stopper. It did pair well with the wines and didn’t conflict.
Flight 2: Batard
2008 Domaine Leflaive Bâtard-Montrachet. Burghound 96. Here the nose is notably tighter and more reserved with aromas of citrus blossom and zest, spice, smoke, fennel and hints of acacia that introduce big, muscular and wonderfully complex broad-scaled flavors that culminate in a long, focused and explosive finish of breathtaking length and intensity. This should reward at least a decade in the cellar and drink well for a similar period thereafter. This too is terrific and very Bâtard and like the Combettes, the ’08 version is one of the very best young examples from Leflaive that I have ever seen.
2008 Ramey Chardonnay Hyde Vineyard. VM 95. Bright gold. Energetic aromas of green apple, jasmine, minerals and lemon zest. Dry and nervy, with brisk acidity and a saline nuance giving energy and lift to its citrus and orchard fruit flavors. Vibrant and impressively pure chardonnay, finishing spicy, long and dry, with an intriguing floral quality.
2008 Etienne Sauzet Bâtard-Montrachet. Burghound 95. A more open and expressive nose speaks of white flower, white peach and spiced pear before sliding gracefully into delicious, mouth coating and serious big-bodied flavors brimming with dry extract and power on the driving finish. Despite the substantial size and weight, the flavors and finish retain a fine sense of cut while avoiding any sense of heaviness or loss of focus. This is a knockout.
2008 Henri Boillot Bâtard-Montrachet. Burghound 95. A less expressive but more complex nose speaks of notably ripe but not exotic aromas of lightly spiced and toasted green, yellow and citrus fruit that complements to perfection the reserved, intense, round and very powerful big-bodied flavors that display obvious concentration and muscle on the dry but attractively textured and detailed finish. This is a knock-out effort and worth a special effort to find and cellar as it’s going to require at least a decade to reach its apogee.
2008 Domaine Ramonet Bâtard-Montrachet. Burghound 94. A restrained but stylish nose of pain grillé, citrus blossom and apple combines with understated, pure and refined medium full-bodied flavors that culminate in a stunningly intense finish that displays a good deal more minerality than is typical for Bâtard. This is still very primary yet oozes class and refinement but even so it will clearly require a few years in bottle before it’s really ready for prime time. In particular, I really like the overall sense of balance and harmony and this should eventually be quite special.
2008 J.M. Boillot Bâtard-Montrachet. VM 93. Very rich aromas of pineapple, nut oil and smoky oak; the most exotic of these 2008s and the highest in alcohol at 13.5%. Rich, powerful and generous, combining strong acidity and an impression of sweetness and viscosity of fruit. Very smooth, silky wine with a long finish that throws off hints of very ripe stone fruits, nut oils and brown spices.
2008 Paul Pernot et ses Fils Bâtard-Montrachet. Burghound 95. An almost completely inexpressive but relatively high-toned nose of lemon rind, acacia blossom, ripe peach and apricot gives way to almost painfully intense full-bodied and overtly muscular flavors that offer exceptional richness on the magnificently long, mouth coating and palate staining finish that is wrapped around a very firm core of ripe acidity. Chez Pernot, I typically prefer the Bienvenues but as good as it is, and it is very good, in 2008 I give the nod to the Bâtard, if only by a nose, no pun intended.
2008 Domaine / Maison Vincent Girardin Bâtard-Montrachet. Burghound 92-94. A strikingly complex if somewhat less elegant nose offers a considerable breadth of aromas that include ripe peach, spiced pear and white floral hints that serve as a flourishing introduction to the equally ripe, rich, muscular and mouth coating big-bodied flavors that are quite serious and hugely long. Just as the nose is more complex than that of the Bienvenues, so is the finish as there is just another dimension of underlying material present.
Pan Seared Scallops “In Porchetta” Wrapped In Pancetta, White Wine Sauce. While tasty, the bacon was so potent that this really distracted from the wines and threw off the palate.
Flight 3: Chevalier part 1
2008 Etienne Sauzet Chevalier-Montrachet. Burghound 96. A notably more elegant, cooler and more reserved nose of white flower, green apple and ample minerality complements to perfection the silky-textured, pure and stylish medium weight plus flavors that possess excellent volume but also wonderful detail and punch while culminating in an intensely mineral finish of superb intensity while remaining a study in purity and refinement. This is one of those ‘wow’ wines that amazes through transparency and delicacy rather than brute force. Still, don’t be fooled by the finesse as the intensity is such that a deep breath is required after sampling this.
2008 Domaine Jacques Prieur Chevalier-Montrachet. Burghound 92-95. An ultra elegant nose features notes of citrus, pear and rose petal that precede the racy, gorgeously intense and seriously pure mineral-driven flavors that are textured, naturally sweet and mouth coating on the energetic and penetrating finish that delivers spectacular length. A wine of sheer class.
2008 Bouchard Père et Fils Chevalier-Montrachet La Cabotte. Burghound 96. There really isn’t much to modify since my last review was only a few months ago, except to say that if anything, my score might be one point too conservative as this is going to be a great, great Chevalier. The original note from Issue 39 was: Discreet wood sets off a slightly riper but otherwise similar nose to the “straight” Chevalier, which leads to bigger, richer and fuller well-muscled and impressively scaled flavors that culminate in a powerful and beautifully textured finish of simply stunning length. Despite the weight and obvious heft, there is absolutely no sense of heaviness as the underlying minerality imparts a real sense of lift. In a word, terrific.
2008 Domaine Michel Niellon Chevalier-Montrachet. Burghound 95. This hasn’t changed much since my 2010 review as it remains strikingly complex with an ripe, pure and airy nose that speaks elegantly of white flower, spice and subtle pear aromas\nthat complement perfectly the rich and mouth coating flavors that are built on a base of fine minerality, all wrapped in a sappy and explosive finish that oozes dry extract. This is really a stunning effort that is perhaps a bit more forward than I originally envisioned and thus I have shorted my estimated initial drinking window slightly. Seriously beautiful juice.
2008 Domaine / Maison Vincent Girardin Chevalier-Montrachet. Burghound 91-94. A reserved and quite discreet nose reflects notes of ripe green fruit, white peach and rose petal are trimmed in visible wood spice while complementing well the rich, full and intense flavors that are built on a base of firm minerality which contributes to the textured mouth feel on the beautifully balanced and powerful finish. While there is no question that this is a classy, stylish and delicious effort, the flavors seems quite forward for a young Chevalier though again, it’s possible that this is a side effect of being prepared for bottling. Note that my drinking window assumes that it will tighten up once in bottle.
Showing off the golden chard.
Flight 4: Chevalier part 2
A ringer: 2008 Bouard-Bonnefoy Chassagne-Montrachet 1er Cru en Remilly.
2008 Michel Colin-Deléger et Fils Chassagne-Montrachet 1er Cru en Remilly. Burghound 92. A background note of sulfur does not detract unduly from the citrus, anise and rose petal suffused nose. The nicely rich, round and detailed medium-bodied flavors are utterly delicious and display an intense minerality on the elegant, refined and stylish finish. Lovely juice.
2008 Domaine Leflaive Chevalier-Montrachet. Burghound 97. Like the Bâtard, here the nose is quite restrained but exceptionally elegant and pure with white flower, green apple, pear and wet stone where the latter element continues onto the rich, full and highly energetic flavors that tighten up considerably on the detailed, minerally and bone dry finish that displays distinct citrus mineral nuances. This is long, tight and linear with huge amounts of dry extract that renders the very firm acid spine almost invisible at present though the finish is clearly shaped by it. This magnificent Chevalier should be a genuine stunner in 12 to 15 years.
2008 Domaine Jean-Marc Pillot Chevalier-Montrachet. Burghound 92-94. Not surprisingly, this is the most elegant wine in the range with a spicy nose of citrus peel, acacia blossom and plenty of wet stone nuances that merge seamlessly into rich, vibrant, fresh and beautifully detailed middle weight plus flavors brimming with an intense minerality on the firm and hugely long finish that is almost painfully intense. In sum, this is a wine of harmony and supreme grace.
2008 Bouchard Père et Fils Chevalier-Montrachet. Burghound 94. This is also wonderfully elegant with high-toned, pure and airy aromas of white flower, light toast, spiced pear and a hint of green apple that gives way to supple yet detailed mineral-suffused middle weight flavors that are perhaps even more refined than those of the Perrières, all wrapped in a balanced, stylish and lingering finish. As good as this is, and it is very good, it’s not necessarily leagues better than its junior partner, just different though it will most likely require a few more years to reach its apogee.
2008 Pierre-Yves Colin-Morey Chevalier-Montrachet. Burghound 93-96. This offers up the most elegant nose in the entire range with its stone, lemon, chalk and citrus characters that complement the ultra precise and intense flavors of crystalline purity and the same penetrating minerality as the Perrières displayed, indeed this seems constructed on a base of stone that is like rolling rocks around in your mouth. The finish is very much in keeping with the rest of the wine as it’s explosive, bone dry and palate staining. A classy, balanced and harmonious effort that brims with energy. In a word, outstanding.
Grilled Veal Chop With Sage And Parmigiano Fonduta Served With Rosemary Roasted Potatoes, Haricots Verts, Carrots. A hefty slab of veal and a nice sauce.
Flight 5: Dessert
There is a lot to say about this tasting. First of all, Valentino did a good job as usual. The wine service was impeccable, and this is a difficult task (pouring lots of big blind flights). Overall service is absolutely first rate. It’s a large quiet room, and the staff was highly attentive. The food was solid, although not as bright or modern as some places. The decor and food are a tad dated now, very very 90s — and not even as good as I remember back in the 90s. But memory is a funny thing. All the dishes tonight were tasty. Pairing with the Burgundy was spot on (thanks to Don and Ron who worked hard on this aspect).
There wasn’t quite enough food and the flights were too large, although maybe not as bad as at the Chablis dinner. Really this dinner could use 6 flights, no bigger than 5 wines each and about 6 savory dishes. This was more a planning/budget issue than anything under the restaurant’s control. I wanted to go for awesome porky ramen after, but we were just a little too tired and full.
2008 as a white vintage is subjective. It’s very very ripe. These are golden wines with a ton of ripe fruit, a touch of advancement, and a lot of Botrytis. Sometimes they are almost honeyed. We had just one corked bottle and no out and out premoxed bottles, but several were “advanced” although in my mind drinking pretty well right now, as I like creme brûlée in my white Burgs. The real question is how will they age. Hard to say. Most at the table thought not well. But these wines do have a lot of acid. They remind me quite a bit of the 2000 vintage, which I have been enjoying in recent years — so who knows?
As usual, these bigger grand crus are rounded and richer than the Chablis etc we had last time, so they seem riper and even more tropical.
In terms of dinner mechanics, I also think we should vote on each wine in the flight and then reveal that flight. Keeping them blind until the end seriously reduces the learning aspect of the evening, as you can’t really remember or effectively revisit. Plus, my “voting” is pretty random, consisting of picking my favorites from each flight anyway. I just don’t have it in me to go back and retaste 30 wines or to compare Chablis and Corton Charlie against each other. Just my opinion.
Thanks to Don C again as always for organizing a super fun and education event! It’s an enormous amount of organization and we all really appreciate it.
Speaking of Don, his compiled results and comments are below:
The top five ranked wines of the evening were:
- 2008 Ramonet Chevalier Montrachet, which edged the Colin-Morey Chevalier by just one point (48 vs. 47)
- 2008 Colin-Morey Chevalier Montrachet
- TIE 2008 Bouchard Chevalier Montrachet
- TIE 2008 Ramonet Bienvenues Batard Montrachet
- 2008 Jean-Marc Pillot Chevalier Montrachet
The Ringers for the evening – 2008 Ramey “Hyde” Chardonnay, 2008 Bouard-Bonnefoy Chassagne-Montrachet “En Remilly” and 2008 Colin-Deleger Chassagne Montrachet “En Remilly” did not fare as well as the ringer on the first night. The group consensus was that two of them were advanced and four more of us thought all three ringers were advanced.
Of 28 wines, we had 1 bottle which was corked, 1 bottle which was oxidized (Leflaive Chevalier Montrachet — not in agavin’s opinion), 3 bottles which were advanced by group consensus. We had two other bottles for which the group consensus was that the wines were clearly off from technical perspective. In this tasting, 25% of the bottles were either premoxed to some degree or had obvious winemaking defects.
A few generalizations –
- once again, many of the wines showed obvious botrytis. The professional reviewers did no one any favors in failing to report the overwhelming incidence of botrytis-affected wines in the 2008 vintage. A few of the wines had so much botrytis they were almost undrinkable (to Don — agavin likes botrytis, as this is a highly personal palate thing).
- The Puligny/Chassagne grand crus all exhibited a greater degree of ripeness than did any of the wines on the first night. The wines had more buttery textures and flavors on the mid-palate and the acidity on the palate seemed softer, although I think was likely just the impression left by the greater level of ripeness and viscosity.
- Except for many of the Chevalier Montrachets, the colors again tended to be much deeper gold in color than the 2007s at the same stage.
- The Batard flight was easily the least impressive since the 2005 vintage and quite possibly the least impressive flight of Batard I’ve ever tasted in the premox series (agavin didn’t mind it as much because he likes botrytis). Thankfully, the first flight of Bienvenues and Criots was very good and the last flight of Chevaliers (aside from the three oxidized or advanced bottles) was pretty exceptional.
Other big tasting dinners from this dinner series: